Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Web Design & Graphics

Graphics are an important part of web design but require serious thought and planning.

Many websites I see suffer from the same problem. The graphics make the page look unattractive and cause the site to be ineffective because the all important message is difficult to focus on.

This article is aimed squarely at those adventurous souls that are about to design and produce their own website for the first time.

Before you start to design you site, ask yourself “What graphics do I really need”. Filling every spare inch of space with animations or flashing buttons is definitely not a good idea; your pages should look nice and clean. When it comes to web design less is definitely more. Too many unnecessary graphics may slow down your load speeds. They will cause your page to be cluttered and confusing making it difficult to focus on your message. Isn’t your message the only reason you have a web site?

Now might be a good time to spend a few moments discussing how you get to see a web site when you visit one.

After you type the URL you are taken to the site you intended to visit. The first thing that will happen is that your computer will cache the page you have arrived at. It will cache every file on the page including the graphics files. The more files it has to cache and the larger they are the longer it will take to view the page. There are few things that can do a better job of turning an internet visitor off than slow loading pages. People may be patient in life but there is no such thing as a patient web surfer. Make them wait and they will vote with their feet. Always remember that not every one has a high speed internet connection so design for slower surfers.

There are a few basic things that you can do to help speed your page load times and also make your site more attractive and user friendly.

Think of a theme. If you intend to use a tiled graphic as a background with a blue side border and your logo, use it throughout your site. It will help make your visitors more comfortable as whichever page they visit will be visually similar enough that they will always know that they are still in your site. It’s surprisingly easy to click a button and end up in a strange site without realizing it. By using the same graphics over as much as possible it will speed your load times because once a graphic has been cached, it can be reused as needed without caching it again.

Optimize your photographs. When you take a photo with your digital camera the chances are that your picture file is between 100Kb and over 1Mb. There is usually no advantage to using even a 100Kb graphic on your page. If you want to show a large photo, place a small picture on your page with a link to the larger one that way your visitor will be able to choose whether they are interested enough to wait for a larger file to load. I usually try to reduce my graphic file sizes to about 10Kb maximum; it’s not as hard as it sounds. Just cropping your photo can have a drastic effect on your file size.


• empty space is not always bad

• small files are fast files

• if you don’t need it, don’t use it

Steven Fraser is the founder and owner of STF-Web Designs - http://www.stf-webdesigns.com - Affordable Web Design Solutions for small & medium sized businesses

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